My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray Review
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO centers on two young girls, Satsuki (voiced by Noriko Hidaka; dubbed by Dakota Fanning) and Mei (Chika Sakamoto; Elle Fanning, appropriately enough), whose father (Shigesato Itoi; Tim Daly), moves them out to the country while their mother (Sumi Shimamoto; Lea Salonga) recovers in a nearby hospital. While exploring the grounds one day, the girls come across soot sprites, which inhabit and “haunt” empty houses. And that’s just the first surprise waiting for them.
There are also, of course, totoros, troll-esque, rabbit-like creatures that can be flurry and stand several feet high or transparent and no taller than a child’s calf. They’re considered the “spirits of the forest,” a label that might, in American animated films, be attributed to something more ghostly or villainous.
But there is no evil in MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, only a world of astonishment. These creatures don’t exist to harm or as a means for the kids to cope with family misfortunes. (Satsuki and Mei have absolute faith that their mother will soon be home and so find rare reason for concern.) Instead, they are part of the adventure, one that the girls will tell all of their friends and family about. A pair of examples of the good intentions found in the film: a group of totoros incite a midnight dance to help the girls’ seeds sprout into majestic trees; Totoro himself calls upon the helpful Catbus, a multi-legged mode of transportation, to locate Mei when she briefly goes missing.
In 1988, Studio Ghibli released MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO as a double feature with Isao Takahata’s tremendously depressing post-WWII drama GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, in what can justifiably be described as one of the most emotionally imbalanced double bills ever. Still, it found its audience and made its mark, becoming a success and helping to usher in one of the finest animation studios in the world. The film is so representative of Studio Ghibli—and all of its fantastical, whimsical, imaginative efforts—that Totoro became its mascot, just as Mickey Mouse is Disney’s.
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO was Hayao Miyazaki’s fourth feature, after 1979’S THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, 1984’S NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and 1986’S CASTLE IN THE SKY. A quarter-century after its release, it stands as the Japanese master’s greatest achievement. Part of that has to do with the stellar animation and wondrous ideas. But most of it stems from Miyazaki’s intentions.
He would later have children characters square off against witches in films like SPIRITED AWAY (2001) and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004). But MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO isn’t about conquering or slaying. It is about all of the magical things that children can discover if they aren’t afraid or forbidden to explore.
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Without going overboard by making the film look like it came out this year, this high-definition transfer of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO offers a wealth of life, with fine contrast and nice textures in the characters and backgrounds.
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio; Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and French. The audio transfer features crisp dialogue and a crystal clear soundtrack.
Creating MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (2:58): Hayao Miyazaki talks about the film came to be.
Creating the Characters (4:24): Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki discuss the many memorable characters, including Totoro and the Catbus.
The TOTORO Experience (2:00): Suzuki touches on the film’s initial release and success.
Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli (1:23) offers a too-brief look at the famed studio.
The Locations of TOTORO (28:38) takes viewers to some of the locations that inspired the look of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.
Scoring Miyazaki (7:18): Here, Suzuki and composer Joe Hisaishi talk about the latter’s work, which includes a number of Miyazaki films from NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND to PONYO.
Behind the Microphone (5:39): This featurette shows the English dub cast at work in the studio.
Original Japanese Storyboards
Original Japanese Trailer
Also included is a DVD of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.